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Widdershins: Origins & The Modern Witch

Updated on:

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Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)

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Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Widdershins is a term used by modern witchcraft practitioners to reference ritual movements. It means counter-clockwise, to the left, or opposing the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere, these all reference the same direction.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Widdershins, a term derived from Middle Low German “widder” (against) and “sinnen” (to travel), signifies counterclockwise or anticlockwise movement in witchcraft rituals, symbolizing opposition to the norm.

Its origins trace back to medieval Europe, where witches used it to evade persecution and blend into society, often performing their rituals covertly by moving “widdershins” to avoid detection.

In the modern witchcraft community, Widdershins has evolved into a powerful symbol of resistance and transformation, signifying the reversal of negative energy, banishment of unwanted influences, and breaking of harmful cycles.

Witches today incorporate Widdershins into their rituals to invoke change, promote healing, and protect against harm, tapping into the rich history and symbolism of this ancient practice.

The Origins of Widdershins

The word widdershins (also withershins, widershins, widerschynnes) comes to us from the Lowland Scotts via Middle Low German widar “against” sinnen “to go/travel”. It means “the wrong way” or “against the grain” as well as referencing an anti-sunwise or counterclockwise motion.

Traditionally, it is bad luck to move widdershins around a building or person while walking deiseal confers good luck and protection.

Walking widdershins around a church is especially unlucky and we have several literary examples to reference. In the fairy tale, Childe Rowland (Joseph Jacobs, English Fairy Tales, 1890) children were transported to fairy lands after running widdershins around a church. Cross Plain tells of a boy who danced widdershins nine times around a faery ring and fell under their control.

Widdershins and the Modern Witch

In modern magick, widdershins is a “backward” direction. Many witches move clockwise or doesil while casting a circle and move from left to right during ritual and spellwork. Widdershins, or counter-clockwise movement is generally reserved for “undoing” or “banishing” actions.

Thus,
This is illustrated in the Wiccan Rede which talks about dancing widdershins during the waning moon, the traditional timing for banishing, binding, and cursing.

Deosil go by the waxing moon, 
                sing and dance the Wiccan rune
           Widdershins go by the waning moon, 
           chanting out the baleful tune
https://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos312.htm

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About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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